March 4, 2010

Gender aside, this family's story is all about love and commitment

— May I share my story with you?

I will be 60 in another month. I was born in Massachusetts, but have lived in Maine for 35 years, more than half my life.

I live with the man I married 36 years ago. He was a Marist monk from the age of 15 until 25, and attended Catholic schools as a young boy. I grew up in an Irish Catholic household. We met and married at Holy Cross College in Worcester, where Dennis was an assistant dean of students.

This weekend we will travel to Massachusetts with our family to celebrate my parents' 62nd wedding anniversary.

My Mom has lived in a nursing home for the past year because she has Alzheimer's disease. My parents will both be 86 years old this month, and nearly every day, my dad makes an hourlong, round-trip from his home to be with her.

My life partner and I have two adult sons. Our youngest lives in Portland. He is a graduate of Brunswick High School where he played basketball and baseball, and hoped to play football but was sidelined with a stress fracture in his freshman year.

Our oldest son, John, graduated from Waterville High School, president of his class and an altar boy at a local Catholic Church. He now lives outside Boston with his partner, Greg. They have been together for five years, married two years ago in Massachusetts followed by a memorable and emotional four-day wedding celebration with more than 100 guests on Southport Island in Maine. My young niece from Texas called it the ''best wedding ever!''

In the last few years, Greg and John bought and refurbished a lovely old Victorian home and got a dog from a rescue organization. We refer to Flynn as our ''grand-dog.'' We have spent the last three Thanksgiving holidays at their home, the last three Christmas Eves, and too many overnights to count.

They have an 80-year-old next-door neighbor who speaks with an Italian accent and travels to Florida for the winter. While she is away, John and Greg care for her house, shovel her driveway, and this past summer, had her and several of her friends over for dinner. Last Christmas, she called them from Florida just to tell them she loved them.

This summer, Greg's parents, who live in Mystic, Conn., spent a week vacationing in Boothbay Harbor. Fourteen of us -- all our sons, both sets of parents, my Dad, and six more friends -- met for an hours-long dinner at one of the local restaurants.

We adore Greg's parents, and they seem to like us a lot. Paul, Greg's dad, consults with schools all over New England, having been a school principal and headmaster in Massachusetts and Connecticut before retiring. Jeri, his mom, was a flight attendant. We traveled to Connecticut last year to commemorate their 40th wedding anniversary.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I think it is important to put a ''face'' and ''faces'' on the issue of same gender marriage.

It is important to know that our family is probably no different from yours. Our love for one another, covering four generations, four New England states, and marriages that have lasted decades, is the kind of family portrait that those in opposition to same-gender marriage would want you to believe does not exist.

As a psychotherapist in private practice for almost 25 years, I can attest to the fact that families come in all shapes and sizes, and relationships of all kinds have difficulty succeeding as loving and long term.

Despite all the forces at play against couples of the same gender, many have found a way, through their devotion and love, to remain committed, my uncle and his partner included. They were together for more than 35 years but never had the opportunity to marry as one died several years ago, shortly before the law in Massachusetts passed.

We have lived in Maine for all these years because we love this state. We love its values, its independence, its commitment to life as it should be.

I ask that you who believe in fairness, the rights of all individuals, and who hold a belief that family values count, join me and my family in voting ''No on One'' in November.

-- Special to the Press Herald

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